HOLLIDAYSBURG - Sheriff's Deputy Sam McClure, a 21-year veteran of the Altoona Police Department, was selected by the Blair County Prison Board to become its first internal affairs officer.
McClure's name will be submitted to the salary board for final approval, and it's expected McClure will pass muster because members of both boards are almost identical.
The salary board includes the commissioners and the county controller, who are also members of the board that oversees prison operations. The prison board also includes the sheriff, district attorney and a judge.
McClure, 46, did not want to comment until his appointment is confirmed by the salary board, a vote that could be taken as early as May 3.
The county prison is facing many issues.
In the past week, prisoners complained about the food, a corrections officer was arrested for allegedly bringing drugs into the prison, two inmates were improperly released and excessive overtime - an ongoing subject for
several months - again arose.
A month ago, board chairman Sheriff Mitchell Cooper announced the action plan, and one of the top recommendations was the hiring of an internal affairs officer to
investigate situations at the prison.
McClure will continue to be paid through and work for the sheriff's department, but when he is called upon to work as an internal affairs officer, he will be independent and will report to the prison board.
"He will not work for me or the warden. He is assigned to report to the prison board," Cooper stated.
Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron said he liked the procedures. He called McClure an "excellent candidate," adding, "He brings significant experience."
Other pieces of the action plan have been put in place, Cooper said.
One of the recommendations was to have a manager or supervisor on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Warden Michael M. Johnston has assigned Deputy Warden Marc T. Masucci to cover evening shifts, while a lieutenant is covering the overnight shift.
A captain soon will retire, and Johnston will recommend the position be vacated and two lieutenant positions be created to provide an additional supervisory officer.
The sheriff said that recommendation will add about $40,000 to the budget.
Commissioner Terry Tomassetti lent his support to the plan, stating, "A step has to be taken ... [the prison] needs management presence 24/7."
Another recommendation was for the warden and deputy warden to regularly visit the cellblocks.
Johnston and Masucci have started doing that, and the warden is keeping a log of the visits.
Among the items in the log:
- On March 3, the warden visited eight cellblocks and the restricted housing unit. He expressed concerns that a roll of toilet paper was used to block a door, and the staff dining room was unlocked.
- On March 24, the warden talked to an inmate whose mother complained he hasn't been allowed to shave since November. Another inmate asked to be returned to the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon.
- On April 1, the warden talked to inmates in the recreation yard and talked to another inmate who wanted to be returned to the State Correctional Institution at Pine Grove.
- On April 2, he talked to an inmate about his diet and his diabetes.
The log does not contain the names of the inmates or the officers mentioned by the warden.
The sheriff said he wants the entire action plan in effect by late June.